“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
WHEN WE’RE MAKING UP OUR MINDS ABOUT A TOUGH CHOICE, THERE MIGHT BE MANY REASONS WHY WE DELAY THE DECISION. Perhaps we’re still unsure which fork in the road to take. Or maybe we’re mustering the courage the decision is going to require.
At other times, however, we have a different problem: after we’ve made the decision, we try to hold on to the circumstances we would have had if we had chosen the other option. As the saying goes, we try to have our cake and eat it too.
In the gospel, Jesus asks us to make life’s ultimate choice. Whether or not to follow Him is the most radical decision that will ever confront us — it requires making Him the Lord of everything about us, even our innermost thoughts and motives. To say the least, such a decision requires the sacrifice of every previous allegiance we’ve ever had. Whatever has been our ultimate priority up to now, that priority must be subordinated to the will of our new Master: we promise to follow the path that leads us to Him in eternity, forsaking every other path and every other preference.
However, the time comes when we look back longingly at our past priorities — and perhaps we return to them. Without openly rejecting the Lord, we simply start following our own will in the so-called “secular” parts of our life, thinking that maybe our way and Jesus’ way are not so incompatible after all. He will still be our primary Lord, we tell ourselves; we will make sure we keep the other things from getting out of hand. But we are deceiving ourselves, as anybody can see who really knows us (including our children). We have let something else sneak back onto the throne of our hearts.
On this point, Jesus cut to the heart of the matter: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” It is impossible to maintain two ultimate priorities. Ultimate priorities, by definition, are mutually exclusive. They cannot coexist peacefully.
So “no one can serve two masters” is a challenging saying, all the more so for those of us today who believe we can “have it all.”
“The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master” (P. T. Forsyth).